Posts tagged: coal ash

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

coal ash


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
21 December 2009, 1:31 PM
Dec. 22 will be a day residents in Harriman will never forget

I remember my first thought when I read the papers on Dec. 23, the day after one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation's history: "This is only the beginning."

The stories about the spill came out like the spill itself: slow at first, then in a huge, sudden avalanche of sad details. 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Power Plant burst through a dam near Harriman and spread over 300 acres of pristine shoreline along the Emory and Clinch Rivers.

The spill damaged 23 homes and completely destroyed three.  This was enough coal ash to fill up nearly four Empire State Buildings; this much coal ash would flow over Niagara Falls for 24 minutes straight. Luckily, no one was physcially injured, but the emotional toll was immense.

Just 19 days later, 10,000 gallons were released from a pond at TVA's Widows Creek Power Plant in northeastern Alabama. A month after the Tennessee spill, Congress got involved with hearings and rhetoric about how we needed to clean up this mess and make sure it never happens again. But then on March 9, 2009, another spill occurred.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
17 December 2009, 1:25 PM
EPA backs off coal ash plans; industry pressure a likely cause

While we still had hopes to see the first ever coal ash regulations by the end of this year, it seems the EPA might be taking a bit more time before they release their long-awaited proposal. The EPA announced today that, despite repeated claims, it won't be issuing regulations for coal ash ponds by 2010.

It hasn't been an easy road for EPA so far. The power industry has used fear mongering and misinformation to pressure EPA to hold off on regulating one of the nation's biggest wastes, coal ash. Coal ash ponds have poisoned communities and destroyed the environment for decades. It wasn't until a spill in Harriman, Tennessee last December that the agency and the nation recognized the toxic threat at nearly 600 coal ash ponds across the country.

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
02 December 2009, 5:33 PM
Industry thinks so, but Earthjustice disagrees

Almost one year ago, a dyke holding back the 40-acre coal ash pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant broke, releasing more than 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash. The sludge (six feet deep in some places) spread out over 400 acres, damaged 12 homes, and wrecked a train. It was the largest human-induced environmental disaster since Chernobyl.

For the last year, Earthjustice and our partners have worked to reveal the location and contents of toxic coal ash ponds around the United States. We have had some notable success.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
12 November 2009, 11:53 AM
Earthjustice steps in to prevent continued devastation of river

It's not enough that Tennessee's Clinch River was devastated by a toxic spill that dumped 1 billion gallons of coal ash into its waters last December. Now the Tennessee Valley Authority wants to systematically pollute the river (which leads to the mighty Tennessee River) to the tune of one million gallons a day of toxic pollutants. We're talking dumping mercury, selenium and other chemicals into a river which the Tennessee Valley Authority is supposed to be protecting. Instead the agency got permission to pollute the river with coal waste from its coal-fired Kingston Fossil Plant.

Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club joined together to appeal this Clean Water Act permit, which pleases several local Tennessee residents, who have contended with the TVA's dirty water practices for years.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
03 November 2009, 8:59 AM
When is hazardous coal ash not considered hazardous?
The devastation of the TVA spill in Tennessee, December 2008. Photo: United Mountain Defense

When is hazardous coal ash not considered hazardous? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, when you dump it in a landfill as opposed to a pond. This approach is currently being floated by the EPA in its plans to regulate coal ash later this year. Coal ash—the waste left over after coal is burned at coal-fired power plants—is full of dangerously high levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium and other hazardous metals. Cancer rates skyrocket near coal ash dumps that have leaked into drinking water supplies.

As the one-year anniversary of the Kingston coal ash spill approaches (December 22), the EPA has been working hard to prepare the first ever federal regulations of coal ash. But newspapers are reporting that the Government Accountability Office issued a report last week that indicates EPA's plans aren’t the strongest safeguards against this toxic threat.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
02 October 2009, 1:50 PM
Tune in this Sunday, October 4th

When venerable television news show 60 Minutes takes notice of a story, it's got to be an important issue. On this Sunday, October 4, 60 Minutes is going to look at one of the biggest waste problems in our country: coal ash. From the preview on their website:

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
30 July 2009, 1:27 PM
They knew about the threat for 20 years, but did nothing
Tennessee coal ash spill site

It’s been seven months since a billion gallons of coal ash burst through a failed construction dike in Harriman, Tennessee, covering 300 acres, destroying homes, flooding properties and poisoning rivers and wells. According to a recently released report, it was a disaster waiting to happen.

The Inspector General for the Tennessee Valley Authority, which owns the Kingston Fossil Plant and its accompanying coal ash impoundment, reported this week that TVA “has failed for more than 20 years to heed warnings” that might have prevented this spill from happening. This revelation, revealed at the third congressional hearing since the spill, shows that TVA ignored repeated warnings from its own workers in 1985 and again in 2004 that the coal ash site was a public health hazard.

And there’s more:

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
15 July 2009, 1:42 PM
EPA reveals locations—now it must actually regulate coal ash
A house destroyed by coal ash that spilled in December 2008 from the TVA containment pond.

It appears the old maxim "ask and you shall receive" is alive and well.

On June 18, a coalition of environmental groups, including Earthjustice, filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the Environmental Protection Agency to make public a list of "high hazard" coal ash disposal sites across the country.

Eleven days later, we had the information in hand. The 44 sites were spread across 10 states as follows:

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
31 March 2009, 1:56 PM
 

In the final witness panel, Tom Kilgore, president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, said that they have posted information on their website.

But as mentioned earlier by Harriman resident Sarah McCoin, many of the residents simply don’t have ready access to the internet and to TVA’s website. Much like if a tree falls in the forest one wonders if it makes a sound, if there is information available on health impacts that doesn’t actually get to the residents who are most affected, does it really serve to protect?

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
31 March 2009, 1:23 PM
 

After a break…the hearing resumed with testimony from Renee Victoria Hoyos, executive director of the Tennessee Clean Water Network, and from Dr. Avner Vengosh, professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University.

During questions from members of the committee (specifically Rep. Johnson), regarding particulate matter pollution, Dr. Vengosh said: "Inhalation of ash would definitely increase the health risk. Given the climate condition, and we had a lot of rainfall in the south until now, there hasn't been formation of particulate matter as of yet...For the current situation there hasn't been formation of dust that could affect health. However this could be changing very soon."

While breathing the coal ash dust might not pose an immediate threat, as the weather warms up and the rainfall dries out, coal ash dust could be a very serious problem.